Cibo - Picture Perfect

4740 Reed Road, Upper Arlington, OH 43220 (614) 436-2426

 

WHAT:
A lot of love abounds in this Italian house, and we immediately felt its warmth the moment we stepped in the door. Cibo sits on the foundation of a bygone time, one that culminated with the success of the 20,000-square-foot Da Vinci restaurant. Those days are gone. The walls of that once-thriving spot have been torn down, paving the way for a new spirit and interpretation of Italian cuisine, as well as an enduring path for a family's legacy.

WHO:
Carla Piolata said food has always played an integral part of the Ciotola family, her parental side. Generations ago, in the fields of Italy, they were farmers. Grandmother Ciotola used to cook for weddings. When she and Grandfather Ciotola moved to the United States, Carla and others family members followed. The family's passion for food led them into various ventures, though it was the Da Vinci restaurant that began to garner all the acclaim. Da Vinci operated from 1974 just until recent years, when Carla said the size of it, which could host up to 700 people, simply became to expensive to operate. The colossal corner building was razed to make way for a new shopping center, and wanting to continue with family tradition, Cibo was brought to fruition, though at a fraction of the size.

Operational since October 2010, Carla, along with husband Tommy, says they want to showcase flavors pulled from all over Italy. "Here, I wanted to - I mean, the traditional red-sauce Italian food - it's not what people really eat in Italy."

WHEN:
Cibo opens for dinnertime Monday through Saturday at 5 p.m. and closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations aren't required, though suggested.

WHERE:
Take a quick hop off of State Route 315 N onto Henderson Road and head west. A couple of miles up, you'll catch the Arlington Pointe shopping center on the left. Another quick left onto Reed Road and you'll see Cibo on the left. Though a super busy thoroughfare through here, you'll find the spot OK. And, since it's anchored in the shopping center, you should have no problem finding a parking spot.

THE TEST:
We were guided into the bar, the restaurant already busy, and slid into a cozy booth just steps from the entrance - close to all the action, yet intimate. The décor here could be defined as modern chic, with crystals hanging from the ceiling, wood and tile contrasts throughout, and a beautiful brick wall behind the bar displaying a multitude of wine selections.

Carla joined us for dinner this evening, quickly presenting us with our first round of treats: Spice Seared Tuna, fanned out over eggplant and red pepper caponata, tastefully spicy with razor-thin Sardinian flatbread. Calamari wins here, too, with its roasted red pepper sauce and garlic aioli. The Antipasto Platter sparkled - a carnival of colors come dispersed for visual delight. Cheeses, olives, toasted bread and meats kept us busy. Chef John Beck adds a twist to this spread with dried-fruit mostarda, deliciously sweet and spicy.

Next in line were salads. A Caesar might sound standard, right? Wrong here. The wedge we were presented with was made remarkable by the fact that it comes grilled, straight out of a wood-fired oven. The smoky wood flavor combined with zesty anchovy-garlic dressing and shaved reggiano will catch you off guard, in a great way. The Caprese salad spotlights the eatery's housemade Mozzarella, moist, savory spongy and dotted with aged balsamic vinegar and basil oil, freshly plucked and blended.

Entrees came to us in two rounds. In the first, we dove into silky smooth Seared Scallops, such meaty morsels set on a bed of fluffy rich spinach-mascarpone risotto. Continuing on to something a little more robust, we carved into some Grilled Lamb Loin Chops, succulently seasoned with rosemary rub and accentuated with the dried-fruit mostarda we tried earlier. Finally, Veal Saltimbucca ("jump into your mouth") here gets treated to a Marsala-infused demiglaze that takes two days to make.

Chef John has been given free reign to do as he pleases in what he touts as a "scratch" kitchen, and the flavors in the dishes make it evident they could come from nothing but.

Two fish dishes arrived last: Grilled Rainbow Trout, meaty with crunchy skin, and fluffy Zucchini-Scaled Red Snapper, another visual delight. Here, a beautiful filet looks lovingly covered with paper-thin zucchini slices, hiding creamy zucchini mousse underneath. Citrusy-rich lemon butter sauce and risotto Milanese complete the look.

For dessert? Caramel custard, a dish thicker than flan and made with cream and crushed almond cookies. The juicy caramel sauce oozes onto the plate and has many layers of flavors to contemplate. The cheesecake here stands out for its pronounced lemon taste and basil sauce, not to mention the addition of mascarpone cheese.

We left with a feeling of being at home, being with loved ones, sharing stories of food and families. Carla even ended the evening giving us an Italian kiss. These things made the greatest impression of all.